The Locals Speak
Dr. Nizam Peerwani's office in Tarrant County produced the Autopsy Reports on the Branch Davidians and the ATF agents. The Museum has on display many, but not all, of the Branch Davidian Autopsy Reports, along with autopsy photographs the Museum received through unofficial sources. (See Veracity of Autopsy Photographs and Crime Scene Photographs.)
When Dr. Peerwani testified at the 1994 San Antonio trial of the Branch Davidians, he told the jury about the conditions under which the mothers and children died in the concrete room. He repeatedly claimed that many died of blunt force trauma or suffocation due to the structural collapse of the building. His testimony was marked by many misstatements and internal inconsistencies, and he seemed unfamiliar with the content of the Autopsy Reports. (The full text of Dr. Nizam Peerwani's testimony has been included for the visitor's personal perusal and further research. Highlights of his testimony have been recorded below.)
When he went out to the concrete room on April 21, Dr. Peerwani said he saw bodies "very badly burned, charred, mutilated, as well as fragmented …" (Transcript, pg. 5962).
Peerwani: "Well, there were multiple bodies in the bunker. The bunker was a structure that housed food and other stored material, as well as ammunition. And we had recovered thus far approximately six bodies that were on the bunk—inside the bunker on the surface. We realized that there were a lot of bodies buried beneath the rubble of the collapsed bunker, but the bunker was very unsafe. There were ammunition that we were not sure they were live rounds or exploded rounds, and certainly there was the danger of the roof collapsing on us." (emphases added) (Transcript, pg. 5963 and 5964.)
Note that Dr. Peerwani has just stated that (a) the bunker had already collapsed, and (b) there was danger of the roof collapsing. A sharp lawyer, even without photographs, should have required a clarification: Had it collapsed, or was it about to collapse? But Peerwani was not challenged.
Dr. Peerwani reiterated throughout his testimony that many of the people in the "bunker" died when "the bunker collapsed."
Peerwani: "Well, there were—there were in fact nine bodies in the bunker that we—we concluded died of suffocation, because the bodies in the rubble, when the bunker collapsed, our studies showed that they had no carbon monoxide present and no traumatic injuries, there were no gunshot wounds, and the cause of death is attributed most probably (sic) due to suffocation." (Transcript, pg. 5979)
Peerwani was asked how he distinguished death caused by smoke inhalation from death caused by burns,
Peerwani: "Well, we were looking for objective findings to ensure that in fact they died of inhalation. If we saw no evidence of any soot or carbon in the trachea, windpipe, or in the lungs, if we saw no by-products of combustion, like carbon monoxide, where the bodies are still very badly burnt or had sustained thermal injuries, we classified them as dying of thermal burns." (Transcript, pg. 6030)
Peerwani: "Fifty-nine was a Jane Doe, 14 to 19 years of age, and she died as a result of blunt post-traumatic injury "sic" due to the collapsing of the bunker and debris which caused her skull to be crushed." (Transcript, pg. 5980) and,
Peerwani: "Sixty-two is a child Doe, approximately 1.3 years or 1.8 years, and the child died as a result of blunt post-traumatic injury "sic" due to the collapsing bunker with a crushed skull "Transcript, pg. 5980", and later: "Sixty-three was also in the bunker, and she was child about 1.3 to 1.8 years of age, and she died as a result of blunt post-traumatic injury "sic" due to collapse of the bunker." (Transcript, pg. 5988)
Peerwani: "MC Doe 71 is located here, and she was identified as Michelle Jones, a 10-year-old white female, and she died as a result of fire." (Transcript, pg. 5982). In fact, Michelle Jones was an adult, and mother of three children.
Defense attorney Doug Tinker asked Dr. Peerwani if he knew how many people were in the concrete room.
Peerwani: "Well, there were actually 27 bodies that were recovered there. In the subsequent evacuation after the clearance of the bunker, there were six recovered prior to that, and probably the 27 may be 30. We don't really know whether there are 37 or 30, so my count is about 33 to 36, but there are some on top of the bunker that perhaps we're mixing up." (Transcript, pg. 6022)
Dr. Peerwani also said that on April 22 and 23, six bodies on the surface of the debris inside the room were removed, and nine bodies were removed from the roof (Transcript, pg. 5969). Peerwani told about the recovery of bodies after the concrete room was stabilized and the ammunition removed:
Peerwani: "We came back some few days later from April 27th through 29th, and at that point we evacuated multiple commingled bodies, which we sorted out, and which we believe represented 27 human remains, 18 children and nine female, adult female … (Transcript, pg. 5970)
Peerwani: "We also set into motion a process whereby we would examine the soil and the debris on and around the body, in order to collect body parts, tissues, the teeth and personal belongings that may have fallen off when the bodies were burned and destroyed," Dr. Peerwani said. (Transcript, pg. 5962 and 5963)
Peerwani: "There were some that were very badly burned, especially the surface bodies. There were others deeper inside who showed focal areas of burning in exposed parts of the body, but the entire bodies are not all charred." (Transcript, pg. 6030)
Under cross-examination by defense attorney Douglas Tinker, Dr. Peerwani was asked if many of the people in the concrete room were covered with clothing items, blankets, sleeping bags and the like.
Peerwani: There were some—some items like blankets that were covering especially the small children, yes.
Tinker: Okay. The—and you, in your experience, would conclude, I assume, that it was parents trying to protect their children from the fire?
Peerwani: It's quite possible. (Transcript, pg. 6024)
Tinker: … when you say suffocation, is that a person who died because they just couldn't get air, but it wasn't because they were breathing smoke?
Peerwani: That's right.
Tinker: And those would — those that died from the suffocation would that be from perhaps being under these blankets or sleeping bags that you've described and then as the debris falls down on them, the smoke's not getting to them but — but they just can't get any air?
Peerwani: Yes, sir.
Tinker: And would that be an explanation that you would have for somebody suffocating without breathing the smoke?
Peerwani: Yes, sir. (Transcript, pg. 6029)
Dr. Rodney Crow is the Tarrant County forensic dentist and Director of Identification Services for the Medical Examiner's Office. Dr. Crow was interviewed on the subject of the deaths of the mothers and children on the Maury Povich show in November, 1993 and said:
Crow: "Three children had blunt force trauma. But it was from the falling concrete in the bunker that fell on them. There's an opening in the top of the bunker, eight feet, approximately in diameter and large chunks of concrete fell on these people."
Dr. Crow also said that he believed that the mothers inside the room shot their children and then committed suicide to avoid being burnt to death.
There are some problems with the statements made by Drs. Peerwani and Crow, as we shall see in the upcoming exhibits.
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